Some really innovative start-ups presented chips they’re doing on FD-SOI at the SOI Consortium’s 2018 SOI Symposium in Silicon Valley. We’ll cover those here in Part 3 of ASN’s coverage, as well as a presentation on China by wafer-maker Simgui and the final panel discussion.
BTW, if somehow you missed my coverage of the morning sessions about very cool new products and projects from NXP, Sony, Audi, Airbus and Andes Technology, be sure to click here to read it. And in the afternoon the foundry partners provided excellent insight into who’s designing chips on FD-SOI, and VLSIresearch explained why. You can read that here.
Some of the presentations are posted on the SOI Consortium Events page – but some won’t be. Either way, I’ll cover them here.
Ineda Systems began as an ADAS start-up, and are now working on developing low-power SoCs for use in consumer and enterprise applications. They’re using FD-SOI for their current family of chips. SVP Ramkumar Subramanian emphasized that NRE costs are really important for smaller designs. 22FDX, he said, enabled them to move from 40nm, and ramp to larger volumes.
In February, GreenWaves Technologies, a fabless semiconductor startup designing disruptive ultra-low power embedded solutions for image, sound and vibration AI processing in sensing devices, announced its GAP8 IoT application processor. GAP8 evaluation boards can now be ordered. The GAP8 agile power management architecture combined with IOT low duty cycling is a perfect fit for FDSOI processes. CEO Loic Lietar talked about how it would be used in AI applications at the very edge, wherein only the necessary data should be uploaded to the cloud.
Also in February, Dream Chips’ announced that its ADAS SoC fabbed in GlobalFoundries’ 22FDX (FD-SOI) technology was posting record power efficiency (you can read more about it in ASN’s coverage at the time here.) Dream Chips is Germany’s largest independent Engineering Service Provider. At the symposium, CEO Jens Benndor’s talked about their roadmap.
eVaderis CEO Jean Pascal Bost talked about how data-intensive IoT applications are enabled with FD-SOI and embedded magnetoresistive non-volatile memory (eMRAM) technology. You can get the slides from his talk here. eVaderis has eflash-like and eSRAM-like eMRAM IP that covers most MCU applications. They also have an eMRAM compiler tool and high-value-added IP for 22FDX. They foresee impressive power savings at the system level with body biasing: 25x this year and up to 45x in 2020, so that intelligence can be brought to IoT. In February they announced that they are co-developing an ultra-low power MCU reference design using GF’s eMRAM technology on the 22FDX® platform. And in March eVaderis and Mentor/Siemens announced that eVaderis proprietary Magnetic Tunnel Junction (MTJ) model would be co-optimized with AFS to speed-up simulations and generations of embedded MRAM IPs and compiler products with good accuracy.An 22FDX MCU reference design project is underway, with tape-out in July ’18.
Reduced Energy Microsystems (REM) CEO William Coven talked about realizing near-threshold computing with 22FDX and low-power memories. REM has two products on 22FDX: their Neuron Vision SoC and 64-bit RISC-V IP cores. 22FDX, he says, has been fantastic.
Jeffrey Wang, the CEO of wafer-maker Simgui looked at why China is promoting its IC industry. (In the SOI ecosystem, Simgui is particularly known for its RF-SOI wafers, which it produces using Soitec’s Smart CutTM process.) This was more of an overview talk, not necessarily specific to the SOI ecosystem, but certainly interesting.
In terms of worldwide semiconductor sales, he said, about half end up in China. The CICF – aka the Big Fund – is currently running at about $74 billion. Having realized that mergers & acquisitions would not solve the problem, they’ve opened a second round, targeting another $160 billion.
China’s two biggest innovation success stories are Huawei (with its Kirin processor), and China Rail, which is now a global Fortune 500 company. The CAGR for the China semiconductor industry is 19%, though they need 20% to reach their goals.
IC design is a particularly successful area, posting a CAGR of 29%, with two players in China in the top 10 worldwide. Packaging and assembly/test are also very strong. Zing is working on increasing the supply of 300mm silicon wafers, while Simgui is expanding in both 200 and 300mm capex, due to “big demand”, he said.
The day wrapped up with an excellent panel discussion moderated by SOI Consortium Executive Co-Director Giorgio Cesana. Here are a few of the observations made by the panelists.
QuickLogic CTO Tim Saxe said that FD-SOI made their designs more compact. With FD-SOI for FPGAs, you’ve got one set of IP, and you can decide at runtime where you’re going for low power or high performance. With a lot of power domains, you see the benefits at the system level.
GF VP Dave Eggleston said they’re seeing early adopters of eMRAM, especially for wearables with RF and low power.
ARM VP Kelvin Low said people should do more than just migrate to FD-SOI. If they use back biasing, it can replace the need for big/little cores.
Body biasing makes things easier, maintained Verisilicon CEO Wayne Dai. His teams find that with body biasing, you can tape out for “typical” instead of “worst case”.
It’s not too late for FD-SOI: it’s perfect timing for the MCU market, which is still at 40nm, said Sankalp Semi CEO Samir Patel. As designers, they’re happy to focus on companies still on the older nodes.
The IP ecosystem should be more enthusiastic about FD-SOI, said Analog Bits EVP Mahesh Tirupattur. You’ve got more potential customers, and your volume runs can be bigger.
In his closing remarks, SOI Consortium Executive Co-Director Carlos Mazure reminded the audience of the day’s three take-aways:
Good news: there are far fewer bigoted extremists out there when it comes to FD-SOI vs. FinFETs. People want the best technology for their application. It’s that simple. That’s a key piece of news from the updated survey by Dan Hutcheson, CEO of VLSI Research, which he presented in the afternoon session of the SOI Consortium’s 2018 SOI Symposium in Silicon Valley
The afternoon then featured presentations by foundry partners, which I’ll cover here.
Also in the afternoon were presentations by wafer-maker Simgui, some innovative start-ups leveraging FD-SOI for custom SoCs and the final panel discussion. I’ll cover those in Part 3 of this series.
BTW, if somehow you missed my coverage of the morning sessions about very cool new products and projects from NXP, Sony, Audi, Airbus and Andes Technology, be sure to click here to read it.
The presentations are starting to be posted on the SOI Consortium Events page – but some won’t be. Either way, I’ll cover them here.
A couple years ago at the annual SOI Symposium in Silicon Valley, Dan Hutcheson presented results of a survey he did (ASN covered it – you can still read about it here). At the 2018 event, he presented an update, which is now posted. You can get it here.
The FD-SOI roadmap and IP availability are no longer issues for decision makers, he found. The 14nm branch – do you go FinFET or FD-SOI? – is gone. “Fins and FD are complementary,” he observed. Most people said they’d consider using both and running two roadmaps, choosing whichever technology is appropriate to a given design.
From a transistor viewpoint, the top reasons to choose FD-SOI is that it’s better for analog and has lower leakage/parastics. It’s perceived as better for complex, high mixed-signal SoCs, and especially for RF and sensor integration. In fact, people see RF as the new mixed-signal, wherein FD-SOI is uniquely positioned for 5G and mmWave.
From a business viewpoint, FD-SOI is perceived to have real advantages. In particular, FD-SOI wins when it comes to keeping down design costs, manufacturing costs and time-to-market. IoT is still the hottest target market for FD-SOI, to which he adds high growth expected in automotive and medical.
With 20 tape-outs in 2018, Samsung is seeing an acceleration in its FD-SOI business. “The trend is healthy,” said Hong Hoa, SVP of the company’s foundry business. FD-SOI, he continued, is on a “differentiation path.”
Samsung’s 28nm FD-SOI process, called 28FDS is at full maturity with very strong yields. They’re seeing more customers and a wider range of applications. The design infrastructure, silicon-verified IP and methodologies are also all mature. They have optimal implementation and verification guidelines for body bias design, a body bias memory usage guide, and a body bias generator integration guide. The process supports Grade 1 automotive, and will be qualified for Grade 2 in a few weeks.
FD-SOI, Hoa reminded the audience, offers superior RF performance compared to both planar bulk and 14nm FinFET. The Samsung strategy is to first provide a base for for the FD-SOI process, then add RF and eMRAM. The base for 28nm was done in 2016; they added RF in 2017 and eMRAM this year.
The Samsung platform for IoT applications integrates both RF and eMRAM to support multi-function needs in a single platform. Lead customers are already working with eMRAM in their designs, he added. (BTW, Samsung has a really nice video explaining their eMRAM offering – you can see it on YouTube here.)
The basic PDK for the Samsung 18nm FD-SOI process (18FDS) will be available in September 2018, with full production slated for fall of 2019. It will deliver a 24% increase in performance, a 38% decrease in power, and a 35% decrease in area for logic. RF for the 18FDSplatform will be ready by the end of this year, and eMRAM beginning in 2019.
With design wins from 36 customers underway, 12 of which are taping out in 22FDX (GF’s 22nm FD-SOI process) this year, the market has validated FDX for differentiation, said GF SVP Dr. Bami Bastani. And indeed, designers are using it for a wide array of applications across North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific and Japan.
Customers in the North America are designing in 22FDX for NB-IoT, industrial, RF/analog, mobile, network switches and cryptocurrency applications. In Europe, it’s more or less the same plus automotive/mmWave, optical transmission, wireless BTS and AI/ML. In Asia Pacific/Japan the mix is similar to Europe.
Bastani sees the three big enablers as the the strengths of the roadmap, the ecosystem and multi-sourcing from Dresden and Chengdu (where they’re already equipping the cleanrooms). He also tipped his hat in acknowledgment to the partnership with FD-SOI wafer supplier Soitec, noting that they have gone the extra mile to match GF’s requirements.
So that was the first part of a great afternoon. As mentioned above, my next post (part 3) will cover a very informative presentation by wafer-maker Simgui on the markets in China, plus talks by some innovative start-ups leveraging FD-SOI for custom SoCs and the final panel discussion.
“The ecosystem is ready. The focus is now on applications and products.” And with those words, SOI Consortium Executive Director Carlos Mazure opened the annual Silicon Valley SOI Symposium. As promised, the day was packed with presentations about products on FD-SOI – some from big players like NXP and Sony, some from names new to the FD-SOI ecosystem like Audi and Airbus, and some from start-ups just getting into the game.
The event got excellent coverage in EETimes/EDN – including in their editions across the globe in China, Japan, Taiwan, India and more. Samsung, GF Ramp FD-SOI, heralded the headlines.
It was a full day of excellent presentations. In this post, I’ll chronicle the morning presentations. The next post(s) will cover the afternoon session. Note that as of this writing, the ppts are not yet posted on the SOI Consortium website, but many will be. Keep checking back under the Events tab, and look under “past Events”.
As semiwiki noted a few years back, Andes Technology is “…the biggest microprocessor IP company you’ve never heard of.” Based in Taiwan, Mediatek is one of their big customers; they’ve got a strong client base across Asia/Pacific, and are now making inroads into North America. Last year they announced with GF their 32-bit CPU IP cores had been implemented on GF’s 22FDX® FD-SOI technology.
In his symposium keynote, CEO Frankwell Lin said that in the test chip they’re doing with GF and Invecus, they’re seeing a 70% power savings compared with what they’d gotten in 28ULP. Their newest products are the N25 32bit and NX25 64bit RISC-V based cores, and in July they’ll announce a core that runs on Linux.
“With FD-SOI we’re enabling the future of embedded processing,” the always-quotable (and keynote speaker) NXP VP/GM Ron Martino told us. NXP’s i.MX7ULP, i.MX8, i.MX8X and i.MXRT are all FD-SOI based. They all share fundamental building blocks, so NXP can build platforms, scale and re-use IP. “It’s better than any technology I’ve worked on in my 30 years in the industry,” he said.
They’re seeing much higher performance with on-chip flash. And the RT “crossover” processor boasts 3x higher computing performance than today’s competing MCUs. This is going to be critical for edge computing going forward, to which end NXP is working very closely with foundry partner Samsung.
FD-SOI is not just helpful for the logic part of these chips – memory technologies also share in the benefits. They get much higher performance with on-chip flash. Leakage is cut by a factor of ten with biasing techniques, and the enhancements mean that memory can operate at very low voltages.
NXP is increasingly sophisticated with how they use body biasing, applying high-granularity techniques to independent domains in different parts of the chips. Getting sub-0.6 Vmin delivers value at multiple levels: on battery life, on total system cost, and on system enablement. Invest in body biasing if you want to get leadership results, advised Martino.
Edge computing – including machine learning and neural networks for things like image classification – is a big target, he continued. At the last CES they did a proof-of-concept “foodnet” where two appliances talked to each other without having to go to the cloud. In that case it was an i.MX8 in a fridge and an i.MXRT in a microwave, but he explained that the same concept can be applied to a car for driver awareness, where you don’t want to take the extra time for or don’t have a connection to the cloud.
iMX and FD-SOI enable scalable solutions, he concluded.
What’s a metal-bending company doing talking about electrons? asked Audi Project Manager Dr. Andre Blum. And why SOI? Well, for Audi, he said, SOI stands for Solutions, Opportunities and Innovation.
Audi is working on the various levels of autonomous driving, and they want it to be without design limitations. That means being able to hide sensors wherever they’re needed. They’ll create a cocoon around the car for the best driver experience. He showed a fun video Audi’s made to illustrate their concept – it’s the Invisible Man video, which you can check out on YouTube.
But those new architectures can’t up the power budget (think heat): rather they need to cut power drastically while increasing performance. And with FD-SOI, they see an opportunity to do just that, he said, while integrating the sensors.
Audi is one of 25 partners in a heavily funded (>100 million Euros) brand new EU Horizon 2020 program called Ocean12 (lead by Soitec). The launch was only May 1st 2018 (so as of today it doesn’t even have a website yet), and it will run for about 4 years. It is described by ECSEL (a public-private entity that puts together the big EU research projects) as an “opportunity to carry European autonomous driving further with FDSOI technology up to 12nm node”. One to watch!
For Airbus, it’s all about increased connectivity and communications that are trusted and secure, said company expert Olivier Notebaert. Since their chip runs are low, NRE – non-recurring engineering costs – are very important; and they need flexible systems.
SOI has a long history in aerospace – in fact that’s originally where it got its start, since it can handle radiation and is immune to latch-up. Notebaert says that even for Airbus, IoT is their future. The developments they pioneer will be part of it.
Airbus is a partner in the EU Horizon 2020 DAHLIA project – which stands for Deep sub-micron microprocessor for spAce rad-Hard appLIcation Asic. The project is, “…developing a Very High Performance microprocessor System on Chip (SoC) based on STMicroelectonics European 28nm FDSOI technology with multi-core ARM processors for real-time applications, eFPGA for flexibility and key European IPs, enabling faster and cost-efficient development of products for multiple space application domains. The performance is expected to be 20 to 40 times the performance of the existing SoC for space.”
According to another recent presentation, DAHLIA is prototyping an FPGA this year that will be in production in 2019.
For Sony GM Kenichi Nakano, FD-SOI has big potential for low-power products. And he should know. Sony has been an FD-SOI pioneer, using it as the basis for GPS chips that are now in a growing number of cool products, especially watches. They’re getting good feedback from the market and see good opportunities across a diversified global customer base, he said. Their CXD5603, for example, is the lowest power GNSS (GPS) chip worldwide. In mass production since 2015, it is now dominating world wearable markets like trackers — such the popular Amazfit line.
Running through their various FD-SOI based GPS offerings, he noted that the GPS is a pretty simple chip. But now customers are asking for more, like for it to work in the water (where a GPS typically doesn’t). So Sony has partnered with triathalon teams and are seeing good results.
With success, of course, comes greater demands: for greater accuracy, for more precise positioning in motion, for increased height accuracy, for even lower power – and Sony is meeting these demands with FD-SOI, in solutions like the new CXD5602. The CXD5602 product configuration covers audio/video/communications: key factors in IoT. A camera version is releasing this summer, as are main and extension boards. An LTE module will be released at the end of 2018.
And now they’re using those FD-SOI chips in audio applications. You’ll find it in the Xperia™ Ear Duo, he said. The MWC press release noted that Xperia Ear Duo “… is driven by Sony’s ultra-low power consuming “CXD5602” chip and a sophisticated multi-sensor platform, the “Daily Assist” feature will recognize time, location and activities to offer relevant information throughout the day – reminding you what time your next meeting is when you reach the office or narrating the latest news headlines.”
Also in that PR, Hiroshi Ito,Deputy Head of Smart Product Business Group at Sony Mobile Communications, said, “Ear Duo is the first wireless headset to deliver a breakthrough Dual Listening experience – the ability to hear music and notifications simultaneously with sounds from the world around you.” The highly anticipated wireless “open-ear” stereo headset started rolling out to select markets in Spring 2018. There’s a great info page with video here.
So that’s what we heard in the morning. My next post (or posts?) will cover the afternoon. That includes Dan Hutcheson’s excellent talk updating his FD-SOI survey, presentations from Samsung, Globalfoundries and Simgui, plus some from very cool start-ups, and the final panel presentation.
Following the immense success of last year‘s FD-SOI training day in Silicon Valley, the SOI Consortium has another one planned for the end of April this year. If you want to start learning how to leverage FD-SOI in your chip designs, this is a great place to start. Click here for information on how to sign up.
ST Fellow Dr. Andreia Cathelin has put together another great line-up. World renowned professors and experts from industry will deliver a series of four training sections of 1.5 hours each, focused on energy efficient and low-power, low-voltage design techniques for analog, RF, high-speed, mmW and mixed-signal design.
You’ll learn about design techniques that take full advantage of the unique features of FD-SOI, including body biasing capabilities that further enhance the excellent analog/RF performances of these devices.
Each section of this training day will take you through concrete design examples that illustrate new implementation techniques enabled by FD-SOI technologies at the 28nm and 22nm nodes – and beyond.
The design examples will cover basic building blocks through SoC implementations. A global Q&A session will close the day.
Here’s a little more info on how the day will unfold. Click on the slides to see them in full screen.
FDSOI-specific design techniques for analog, RF and mmW applications – Andreia Cathelin, Fellow, STMicroelectronics
Andreia Cathelin is ST’s key design scientist for all advanced CMOS technologies, and is arguably the world’s leading expert on leveraging FD-SOI in high-performance, low-power RF/AMS SoCs. Her course will first present a very short overview of the major analog and RF technology features of 28nm FDSOI technology. Then the focus moves to the benefits of FD-SOI technology for analog/RF and millimeter-wave circuits. She’ll give design examples such as analog low-pass filters, inverter-based analog amplifiers and 30GHz and 60GHz Power Amplifiers, as well as mmW oscillators. There will be particular focus on the advantages of body biasing and special design techniques offering state-of-the-art performance.
Circuit Design Techniques in 22nm FD-SOI for 5G 28GHz Applications – Frank Zhang, Principal Member of Technical Staff, GlobalFoundries
Frank Zhang has designed chips using GF’s 22nm FD-SOI (22FDX) process for WLAN, 5G cellular and automotive radar applications. His course will focus on how to take advantages of FD-SOI’s high-frequency performance at relatively low-current density to design high performance RF/mmWave circuits. Examples circuits include a 28GHz LNA, a 28GHz PA and an RF switch for 5G applications. The FD-SOI advantages such as low capacitance, high breakdown voltage and high-output impedance will be exploited in these design examples. This course will also discuss how to extend these techniques to applications at higher frequencies and/or higher current densities that are subject to extreme temperatures and EM requirements.
Energy-Efficient Design in FDSOI – Bora Nikolic, Professor, UC Berkeley
Borivoje (“Bora”) Nikolić is known as one of the world’s top experts in body-biasing for digital logic (he and his team have designed more than ten chips in ST’s 28nm FD-SOI.) If you missed it, his team’s RISC-V chip was cited as one of Dr. Cathelin’s “Outstanding 28nm FD-SOI Chips Taped Out Through CMP” – read more about that here. His talk at the training day will present options for energy-efficient mixed-signal and digital design in FD-SOI technologies. He’ll explain how to generate body bias and use it to improve efficiency, with examples in RF and baseband building blocks, temperature sensors, data converters and voltage regulators. The techniques will be presented in the context of UC Berkeley’s latest RISC-V-based SoC, designed to operate in a very wide voltage range using 28nm FD-SOI.
mm-Wave and Fiber-Optics Design in FD-SOI CMOS Technologies – Sorin Voinigescu, Professor, University of Toronto
Sorin Voinigescu is a world renowned expert on millimeter-wave and 100+Gb/s ICs and atomic-scale semiconductor device technologies. His lecture will cover the main features of FD-SOI CMOS technology and how to efficiently use its unique features and suitable circuit topologies for mm-wave and broadband SoCs. He’ll begin with an overview of the impact of the back-gate bias and temperature on the measured I-V, transconductance, fT, and fMAX characteristics. Then he’ll compare the maximum available gain, MAG, of FDSOI MOSFETs with those of planar bulk CMOS and SiGe BiCMOS transistors through measurements up to 325 GHz. Next, he’ll provide biasing, sizing and step-by-step design examples for VCO, doubler, switches, PA, large swing optical modulator drivers and quasi-CML circuit topologies and layouts that make efficient use of the back-gate bias to overcome the limitations associated with the low breakdown voltage of 20nm and 12nm FD-SOI CMOS technologies.
With over 100 attendees filling every chair in the auditorium, last year’s training day was sold out. Although it was in Silicon Valley, people actually flew in from all over the world to be there. During the Q&A at the end, most everyone prefaced their questions by saying, “Thank you. I really learned a lot today.”
2018 will be no different – except that it’s sure to sell out even faster. Please note, though, that this is not a free event, so only the attendees will get copies of the slide decks.
Here’s key info you need to sign up. See you there!
When: 27 April 2018, 7:30am – 5pm.
Where: Crowne Plaza San Jose, Milpitas CA (parking is free)
Registration fee: US $485.00 (includes training book, breakfast, box lunch and refreshments during breaks)
How to sign up: Click here to go directly to the registration site.
China Mobile is the world’s largest* telco. So when Danni Song, one of the company’s high-level project managers presented at the SOI Consortium’s 5th International RF-SOI Workshop in Shanghai, you can bet people listened. With each new slide, a glowing sea of cell phone cameras rose over the heads of the audience in the huge, packed ballroom.
Over the last month, there’s been a lot more coverage of 5G in the press (especially after the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) – check out Junko Yoshida’s EETimes piece for example). For ASN readers who want to know more about 5G and RF-SOI in China, here’s a reminder that Song’s presentation, and many of the others given by leading companies at the RF-SOI Workshop last fall, are now posted on and freely available the Consortium website Events page. Click here for the listing and links.
The theme of the workshop was IoT, mobile, 5G connectivity, and mmW. As Dr. Xi Wang, Director General of SIMIT/CAS (the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem & Information Technology in the Chinese Academy of Sciences), said in his opening keynote, China is strong in RF-SOI. RF-SOI will be growing at a CAGR of over 15% for the next five years, and China has production, design, wafer manufacturing and good momentum. “We will make a great contribution to the whole IC industry,” he predicted.
Of note, too, Russell Ellwanter, CEO of TowerJazz, gave what turned out to be a very inspirational keynote about Value Creation, and the importance of treating your suppliers with respect. He credits his company’s close relationship with RF-SOI wafer-supplier Soitec for TJ’s claim to the world’s best linearity. Five of their seven fabs do RF-SOI. LNA (low-noise amplifers) are a big market driver, and with RF-SOI they can integrate the LNA with the switch.
Here are some more highlights from the day – but by all means check out the presentations for details. (You can click on the illustrations to see them in full screen.)
In her presentation, Embrace a Brand New Cooperation in 5G Era, Song asked where RF-SOI could help in her wish list. Could it increase integration and decrease cost and power consumption? Can it help improve NB-IoT device performance? The supply chain needs to come back around into a circle, so that the telcos are connected to and get insights from the wafer substrate providers, she said.
China Mobile has a 5G Innovation Center, and has established test labs in 8 cities. And the government has announced a 5G launch in 2020, with pre-commercial trials now going into 20 cities. So she was at the RF-SOI Workshop as much to listen and learn as to share China Mobile’s vision.
The presentation by Kidetoshi Kawasaki, GM of Sony Semiconductor Solutions, focused on antenna tuning, which he said is one of the fastest growing things in cell phones. Antenna Tuning Progress & SOI Single Chip Integration for 4G/5G UE (note that UE = user equipment) looks at antenna aggregation, and why it is important for carrier aggregation (CA) and MIMO. Sony has developed an SOI-based next-gen process for 5G integrating passive components. That’s why RF-SOI is important and will be continued to be used in the mobile market, he said.
GF has developed demo vehicles to help customers, said Sr. Director of the RF Business Unit, Peter Rabbeni. (Over the years they’ve shipped over 32 billion RF-SOI devices, btw.) In his presentation, RF-SOI: Delivering Performance & Integration for the Next Generation of Mobile,he noted that RF is becoming more complex than digital. As a result there is a need to integrate to help reduce cost: this is a direct correlation to the standards that are driving complexity. At the same time, performance requirements are increasing, so the challenge is driving increased performance at the same or lower cost than previous generations of products.
To meet 4G/LTE and 5G’s evolving performance demands, GF has recently introduced two new RF-SOI platforms, which he detailed in the presentation. 8SW enables increased integration of front-end modules (FEMs), while 45RFSOI is for mmWave FEMs. (In a separate presentation, IDDO-IC CEO Denis Masliah presented a Differential Complementary Millimeter Wave Power Amplifier for 5G using 45RFSOI process, which is currently being fabbed by GF.)
The two leading RF-SOI wafer suppliers, Soitec and partner Simgui, both gave excellent presentations. Though Soitec EVP Bernard Aspar’s presentation Engineered Substrates as Foundation of Innovation in RF is not posted, he made some important points. Up til now, RF-SOI has mainly been about switches and tuners, he said, but there are other opportunities that offer the potential for huge growth. The full supply chain needs to be prepared, he said, and suppliers need to understand each other. Each technology requires the right substrate – and even as we move into sub-6GHz 5G, there is still work to be done in 4G. In fact Soitec is now offering services to help customers better understand new substrate options.
Soitec’s partner in China, Simgui, now uses Soitec’s Smart CutTM technology for RF-SOI wafer production. Together the two are now producing over a million 200mm RF-SOI wafers/year, said Simgui Sr. Director, Kerui Wang. His presentation, RF-SOI – a Secured Substrate Supply Chain, looked at their strategic partnership with Soitec, wherein they use the same tools and processes to deliver the same products meeting the same specs.
Two leading fabless companies – RDA Microelectronics (which was acquired by Spreadtrum) and SmarterMicro also presented their RF-SOI activities. Although their ppts are not posted, here are a few highlights.
Longtime ASN readers will recall that RDA has been shipping high-volume, RF-SOI based chips to Samsung and others for over five years. In the presentation, RF-SOI in Current and Future RFFE Solutions, Engineering AVP Joseph Jia said that over last two years alone they’ve released almost 50 RFFE (front end) chips on RF-SOI. They see RF-SOI as the right match for switches, tuners and NB-IoT because of the low-voltage and tunability advantages.
SmarterMicro’s CTO, Peter Li, sees RF-SOI as a cornerstone of 5G. In his presentation, Reconfigurable RFFE in 5G, he said the goal is smart systems on fewer dies to decrease size and cost.
Jeff Zhu, assistant director at SMIC, presented SMIC, 0.13um RF-SOI Platform Updates. Mainland China’s largest foundry has recently moved its RF-SOI process from 180 to 130um, and he walked us through some chip designs.
Throughout the day, presenters noted that RF is a great opportunity for China to take a leadership position. As one panelist at the end of the day noted, RF depends more on expertise and talent than digital, which depends more on manpower.
Just before the Shanghai events, there was a 2-day event sponsored by the City of Nanjing, co-organized by SOI Industry Consortium and the City of Nanjing. Over 200 participants attended the workshop and tutorials on SOI applications, SoC development and manufacturing, EDA & IP ecosystem, as well as a design tutorial for More than Moore SOI ecosystem. Almost all of those presentations are now posted on the Consortium – click here to get them.
Some of the participants in the SOI Consortium’s delegation also had the opportunity to visit the enormous Nanjing Sofware Park. Nanjing, we learned, is often considered China’s “RF capital”. The list of the world’s major RF players working in partnership there is certainly an international who’s who.
So, lots of good RF-SOI/5G info on the SOI Consortium website – check it out!
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RF-SOI is in every smart phone out there, and with 5G, there are lots more applications on the horizon. If you’d like to learn more about designing in RF-SOI, there’s a great short course coming up the day before and in conjunction with the EuroSOI-ULIS Conference in Granada, Spain.
The title of this short course is RFSOI: from basics to practical use of wireless technology. Program and registration details can be found here. The course runs for the full day on Sunday, 18 March 2018.
The talks, which are being given by a stellar line-up of experts, include:
BTW, this year marks the 4th joint EUROSOI – ULIS Conference. The EuroSOI Conference, which has been ongoing for decades, is well paired with the ULtimate Integration on Silicon Conference. The joint conference provides an interactive forum for scientists and engineers working in the field of SOI technology and advanced nanoscale devices. One of the key objectives is to promote collaboration and partnership between different players from academia, research and industry. As such, it covers technical topics, industry trends and updates from pertinent European programs.
EuroSOI-ULIS will take place 19–21 March 2018 at the University of Granada in Spain. For information on the program and how to register, see the website. Following the conference, the papers will be available at the IEEE Xplore® digital library, and the best papers will be published in a special issue of Solid-State Electronics.
EDA companies Cadence, Synopsys and Silvaco all gave excellent presentations at the SOI Consortium forums in Nanjing and Shanghai.
Here’s a recap of what the Cadence folks said. (I’ll cover the Synopsys and Silvaco presentations in my next posts.)
At the Shanghai FD-SOI Forum. Dr. Qui Wang, VP & Chief of Staff, talked about FD-SOI Foundry Enablement: From Concept to Mass Production. Cadence, he reminded the packed ballroom, is not just EDA, but also system design enablement targeting verticals. “We’re ready!” he stated.
In the last three years, they’ve done a lot of work on FD-SOI, he said, even working with ARM, GF and Dream Chip on the demo board as a reference design for automotive or vision applications, to show real data to their customers. It uses a quad implementation of the configurable Tensilica Vision P6 core.
To simplify back biasing for the library folks, they worked with the foundries to create interpolations. And as Cadence is traditionally strong in RF/mixed-signal, there’s a new back-biasing tool to simplify board-chip communications, and make the bridge between power and thermal analysis.
Jonathon Smith, Director of Strategic Alliances at Cadence, presented Enabling an Interconnected Digital World — Cadence EDA & IP Update at the Nanjing SOI summit. As he explained, his job is to ensure that design customers can use Cadence tools effectively, not just with Cadence IP, but also with 3rd party IP for the foundry nodes.
He pointed out that the numbers for IoT predictions vary widely, and that industrial IoT (IIoT) will probably account for about 10% of the market. What is sure is that it will contain a large mixed-signal component (RF/digital/analog) and complex packaging.
His customers want to know how fast and easy it is to work in FD-SOI. “Cadence custom and digital tools are ready for FD-SOI,” he said. They have the PDKs and tech files, and the EDA tools are enabled. The reference flows (both digital and custom analog) are tested and ready (Cadence customers who use p-cells and RF look especially for a good mixed-signal flow).
Customers also ask for proof points, and want to know the number of tape-outs they’ve done, performance benchmarks for working silicon and proven IP: this is what gives designers confidence, he said. Examples like Dream Chip’s Computer Vision Processor Chip Design for automotive ADAS CNN applications in 22nm FD-SOI (which they announced at Mobile World Congress in 2017 – see the press release here) have really helped build confidence further, he observed. (In case you missed it, DreamChip presented at the Silicon Valley SOI event in April 2017 – you can get that presentation here.)
Cadence sees SOI as a driving force in IoT markets. They’ve also had some big digital wins recently, he added, and have made some major announcements with the foundries.
For example, in September, they announced that their set of Design for Manufacturing (DFM) tools (signoff solutions) are now qualified on Samsung’s 28nm FD-SOI. This enables customers to create complex, advanced-node designs for the automotive, mobile, IoT, high-performance compute (HPC) and consumer markets (read the press release here). The Samsung Foundry’s PDKs for 28nm FD-SOI are available for download now and incorporate the Cadence Litho Physical Analyzer (LPA), Physical Verification System (PVS) and Cadence CMP Predictor (CCP). In addition to signoff quality, the Cadence DFM tools offer an integration with the Virtuoso® platform and the Innovus™ Implementation System, providing designers with automated fixing capabilities and overall ease of use.
And in October, Cadence announced that its digital and signoff flow, from synthesis to timing and power analysis, supports body-bias interpolation for GlobalFoundries 22FDX™ (read the press release here). The Cadence® tools enable advanced-node customers across a variety of vertical markets—including automotive, mobile, IoT and consumer applications—to use GF’s FD-SOI architecture to optimize power, performance and area (PPA).
Cadence tools for ST’s 28nm FD-SOI foundry process were ready in 2016, btw – there’s a nice video testimonial from ST on power signoff, for example, which you can see here.
The FD-SOI and RF-SOI events in Shanghai and Nanjing were absolute success stories. Over the course of five days, hundreds of executives and design engineers packed halls for talks by the leaders of the top ecosystem players, and for tutorials given by the world-renowned design experts.
These annual events have been ongoing in China now for a few years now. Citing the tremendous growth of SOI, Dr. Xi Wang, DG of SIMIT and head of the Chinese Academy of Science in Shanghai said in his keynote, “We’ve come a long way.” Five years ago, he recalled, very few people in China even knew what SOI was. Today the central government has recognized its value, and the ecosystem is riding a wave of growth and strength. A national industrial IC group has been approved for investment, and design/IP are ready. The industry has reached a consensus, he said, that FD-SOI is cost-effective and complementary to Finfet, while RF-SOI has reached an almost 100% adoption rate in front-end switches for mobile phones.
Many of the presentations are now publicly available on the Events page of the SOI Consortium website. Here are the links:
Over the next few weeks, I’ll cover the highlights of each of these events. Their success clearly represents a tremendous vote of confidence for the SOI ecosystem in China and worldwide.
“The success of these SOI events is a testament to China’s recognition of the great opportunity of SOI-based chip technologies. FD-SOI decreases power consumption and enables deep co-integration of digital, analog, RF, and mm-wave. RF-SOI enables 4G and 5G connectivity with even richer integrated functionalities. It allows the fusion of the RF switch, LNA, and PA, for supporting both traditional sub-6GHz but also mm-wave frequency ranges. SOI technologies also offer a means for China – already the world’s largest chip consumer – to leap to the forefront of chip design and manufacturing,” noted Giorgio Cesana, Executive Co-Director of the SOI Consortium.
The events were followed by top tech news outlets in China. Links follow below (the pieces are in Chinese; or you can open them in Google Translate or Chrome to read them in the language of your choice). Tip: in these pieces you’ll find lots of great pics of key slides, including some that have not been shared on the Consortium website.
FD-SOI coverage included pieces in top pubs such as EETimes China, EEFocus, EDN China (plus a focus piece) and Laoyaoba to name a few. Leading bloggers also posted excellent overviews as well as pieces about specific presentations, including those by Samsung, GlobalFoundries and Handel Jones.
Suddenly they’re everywhere: opportunities to learn more about FD-SOI and RF-SOI. Over the next couple of months you can find them in China, Europe and Silicon Valley. Some are organized by the SOI Consortium, others by foundries and partners.
Here’s a quick listing with links for more info on how to register for upcoming China events.
Nanjing, China. SOI Workshop & Tutorial, 21-22 September 2017.
Organized by the Nanjiing city government and the SOI Consortium. The first day is packed with top presenters, including NXP, ST, Samsung, GlobalFoundries, Cadence, Synopsys, as well as design and IP partners. The second day is a tutorial covering FD and RF-SOI, as well as imagers and photonics. Sessions will be given by Synopsys, Silvaco, Incize, ST, Soitec, and the SOI Consortium.
Shanghai, China. FD-SOI Tutorial. 25 September 2017.
Organized by VeriSilicon and the SOI Consortium. Tutorial covers: tech overview; analog/RF/mixed-signal; neuromorphic and IoT processors; EDA & design process flow; eNVM; and using forward & reverse body bias. Session leaders are from SOI Consortium, GlobalFoundries, ST, Soitec, UCBerkley, Evaderis and Greenwaves.
Shanghai, China. FD-SOI Forum. 26 September 2017.
Organized by VeriSilicon, Simgui, SIMIT and the SOI Consortium. The focus is on Ultra Low Power computing, RF, EDA/IP ecosystem growth and accelerating adoption. Presentations by Dr. Xi Wang of China’s SIMIT/CAS, GF’s CEO Dr. Sanjay Jha, Samsung’s EVP & GM Dr. ES Jung, as well as from Ron Martino, VP & GM from NXP; Paul Boudre, CEO of Soitec; IBS, NSIG, GF, UC Berkeley, VeriSilicon, Cadence and Synopsys. There’s also a very impressive line-up for a final panel discussion.
Shanghai, China. International RF-SOI Workshop. 27 September 2017.
Organized by Simgui, Sitri, SIMIT, VeriSilicon and the SOI Consortium. Now in its 5th year, this conference has grown very quickly: last year it was in a ballrooom with standing room only (note that RF-SOI chips are now found in pretty much every smart phone on the planet). The focus this year is on IoT, mobile, 5G connectivity, and mmW. Keynotes are from TowerJazz, Sony and China Mobile. Presentations from RDA, SMIC, Simgui, Will-Micro, GF, Soitec, Silvaco and Screen.
BTW, for events organized by the SOI Consortium, many of the presentations are available on the website (from Tokyo this summer, for example, and Silicon Valley last spring – and going on back through 2015). Scroll down through Events to Past Events to find them.